Birds are phenomenal pets, and they can bond to their owners and live many, many years, especially some of the larger parrots. But it’s not automatic. Birds don’t just come into your house, love you, feel comfortable with you, and bond with you immediately. This bond is something that you have to work toward. It’s the same as having another pet, like a dog or a cat. These animals aren’t immediately comfortable with you; it takes time for them to adjust. Birds are a particularly intelligent, so sometimes it can be even a little harder to get these animals to bond with you. But what you’ll get back from a bird once it bonds with you is incredible. You get back unconditional love and with the bird’s incredible intelligence, the ability to communicate with the animal actually in language that we understand, even in context. So, it really is worth it for bird owners to invest the time in bonding with their animals, so they can establish that incredible relationship with them.

Why bond with your bird?

It is really important not just for you to bond with you bird, but for the bird to bond back with you. Birds are very social. Parrots in the wild live in flocks of hundreds to thousands. They crave attention. They thrive in social situations. Unfortunately, birds in our homes are put in unusual circumstances where they’re in cages, typically alone. They’re given time each day to be with their owners or with other pets. But they don’t have that same prolonged social interaction that that birds in the wild have all day long. It’s really important for the bird’s happiness and health, both physically and psychologically, to have that bonding time with their owners. Bonding helps both people and birds. Both sides benefit. It’s important to work toward developing that relationship with your bird. It can literally take weeks to months to years to develop that special relationship with your bird. But it really will be worth it if you invest the time.

How can I bond with my bird?

What can I do that my bird will be interested in, that my bird will want to spend time with me doing, and that will be fun for both me and the bird? The first thing you can do involves food and meals. People bond over meals all the time. What do we do when we make plans with our friends and our family members? We go to a restaurant, or we sit down for meal in our homes. Eating is a very social activity. The same thing is true for birds in the wild. They bond over meals, and they forage for food together. They eat big meals at dawn and dusk. Eating is a big social activity for them, too. So, having a meal with your bird is something you can certainly do to bond with him or her. Eating with your bird can occur around your meal time or whenever it’s convenient for you. It can be a true meal, in which you actually sit down with a plate of food and give the bird a little taste of what you’re having that is safe for the bird. Or, it could be when your bird is eating, and you sit down at the same time to have a snack. You can even have the bird next to the table during your meal, on his or her own special perch with a special food bowl.

Be careful never to share anything with your bird that’s been near your mouth, because humans have all kinds of germs in their mouths that birds don’t have. Don’t give them anything from your plate or that has touched your fork. Before you eat, you can break off little bits of fruits or vegetables or anything that your bird really looks forward to eating, like a little piece of pasta or bread, or a bit of cooked egg or meat, and offer it to your bird. This is a great way to have that bird look forward to spending time with you.

The key is to be sure sharing your mealtime with your bird is safe, and the bird can’t fly around, get injured, or get pounced on by a dog or a cat. The goal is to teach the bird that coming to that special perch or that special cage near the table is a social time that that bird can look forward to and anticipate every day.

What if my bird doesn’t feel like bonding?

We have to remember that birds don’t always want to hang out with us. Sometimes, we all have periods where we’re a little antisocial, when we’d rather be resting or sleeping or doing something on our own. You have to take cues from your bird to learn when they want to be social and hang out with you, and when they just don’t. I can always tell what my bird is thinking based on his body language. If I go to get him out of his cage, and he leans away from me, he’s not ready to come out. Sometimes he’ll snap at me a little bit, or just lean forward as if he were going to bite. Other birds will back themselves into the rear of their cages. These are all signs that birds use to communicate that they just really don’t want to come out now, or train with you now, and that they are in their own spaces. That’s okay. We all have times when we just want to be alone, and we have to respect that from our birds, as well.

Sometimes birds want to hang out with you but not necessarily be out of their space, (their cages or their perches). Once again, you have to take cues from your bird to let you know that. Every bird is different. Some birds are extremely social, and they never act that way. Then there are other birds who clearly only want to spend time with you according their own schedules. Try to learn to read your bird’s body language. Listen to the sounds your bird makes when he or she is happy, as well as the sounds he or she makes when annoyed. African gray parrots are notorious for growling. A growl is a sound they make when they’re aggravated. If you’ve ever heard one growl, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It really sounds like a growl. If you hear birds do that, then you know it is not the time to handle them. It means go away; I need to be by myself right now. Different birds have different sounds, but you’ll get to know your own bird’s sounds and body language if you pay attention.

Why is developing a bond with your bird important for the bird?

That trusted bond that the bird shares with you is there to pull your bird through other life changes. Investing time in establishing this relationship with your bird allows your  bird to know that no matter what, you’re going to be there for him or her, even if there’s some other change in his or her life. This security will make the bird much more adaptable and much more likely to come through other life changes without a lot of stress. Therefore, investing time in bonding with your bird is valuable not only for you by providing you with that companionship, unconditional love, and happiness that you get from a bird who adores and trusts you, but also for your bird. Your bird gets to look forward to and count on spending time with his or her favorite person. Remember, birds are truly social creatures that crave social interaction. Establishing a bond of trust with them is critical to their socialization, psychological development, and long-term happiness.

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